Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Service Me Don't

The downside of our hedonistic expat lifestyle (hah!) is that when I go back to May Contain Nuts England, I have to remember that I ain't gonna get no service from no bugger. You want your shopping in a bag? Do it yerself. You want a beer? Stand in the pile at the bar. Petrol? You must be joking right.

On a summer trip back to Blighty two years ago, after an intensive week of business stuff, I rented a car and headed Oop North to see my fambly. After the 5-hour, 40-mile crawl around the M25, I finally got onto the M1 and was almost out of petrol. I stopped at the first 'service' station I came to. I remember that you have to pump your own petrol. So I jump out of the car, and am faced by at least three different unleaded petrol pumps. I grab one, and try to stick it in the hole in the car. It doesn't fit. I squeeze the trigger. Nothing happens. I try the next one. Nearly fits, but not quite. But I give it a hopeful squeeze, and spill a few litres onto the forecourt. Desperate now, I approach the nut guy at the next pump, explaining that I am a space alien and can he please tell me what the deal is with these pumps. He grabs the one that I haven't tried yet, and of course it's a perfect fit, no problem. Sheesh.

I go into the shop to stand in a long queue and pay the money. Forty five pounds only! And then the cashier spots the other unpaid bill, the dribble that missed the car entirely. Another three pounds fifty. Ouch.

I have been on the other side of this 'no-service' thing. When I was a student, hundreds of years ago, I had a part-time job as a barman. It was a busy evening, but I was the ever-attentive bar-steward. I'd noticed that two lads had come in bearing rucksacks, and occupied a table in the corner. They just sat there, looking kind of hopeful, but not jumping up and down or anything. When I had a minute, I left the safe confines afforded by the woodwork of the bar (the regulars all remarking on what great legs I had and how come they'd never seen them before), and spoke to the lads. Turned out they were German, and they wanted a drink. So I, untutored in the ways of the world but knowing very well how things worked in no-service-land, explained that if they wanted a drink, they had to go and stand at the wooden counter and ask the guy behind it for what they wanted. And then they had to pay him cash-money of the Sterling variety. They looked over at the bar and declared that there was no-one there they could ask. 'There will be in a minute' I told them, and resumed my post. They got the hang of it eventually.